Size 16 Boots on the Porch

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Michael Hong
  • 514th Air Mobility Wing public affairs

Author, educator and activist Ted Bunch, co-founder and chief development officer for A Call to Men, took to the stage on Tuesday, April 17, 2018, at the Joint Training and Training Development Center, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., to provide insight into the construct of sexism, challenge the privileges and entitlements given to men by men, and invite men to become part of the solution of men’s violence against women.

Organized by the New Jersey National Guard, this event was held in recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month as part of an ongoing effort to prevent sexual violence, encourage reporting, and support survivors.

Bunch started off his presentation with a brief anecdote about his 27-year old daughter, Maya, who is a graduate of the University of Virginia. During her college years, Maya lived more than five hours away from her father.

“My daughter calls me one day with a whole list of things to bring down to her and one thing stuck out to me,” Bunch said. “She said, ‘Dad when you come back down, will you bring me a pair of your old shoes or boots?’”

“Why do you think she asked for a pair of boots?” asked Bunch to more than one hundred uniformed service members. “It’s because she doesn’t feel safe without people knowing there’s a man in the house.”

“How did we get there?” Bunch said.

We live in a world where we tell our boys, “Stop crying,” or “Suck it up!” or “I’ll give you something to cry about.”

When we tell our boys, “You throw like a girl,” Bunch said. “Do you think those boys will think of girls as lesser than them or better than them?”

According to, “The underlying causes of violence and discrimination against women are rooted in the ways women and girls have been traditionally viewed and treated in our society.  Men are socialized to view women as objects, the property of men and of less value than men.”

One point that Bunch tried to emphasize is that the violence, oppression and discrimination experienced by women through their interactions with men are heavily influenced by the messages that older generations of men are teaching to the younger generations of men.

“When an attractive women would walk by, men in my generation would typically say, ‘Oh, I’d like to hit that,’” Bunch said. The word ‘hit’ implies an act of violence while ‘that’ dehumanizes the women through the usage of an objective reference.

“All these messages are passed down,” he said. High school seniors today will typically use the terms: smash, crush, beat-it-up, and kill-it. “That’s the 2018 version of what men in my generation passed down to boys, they didn’t make it up on their own.”

The above examples demonstrate obvious instances of toxic masculinity and the promotion of a culture of violence and discrimination against women and girls. We cannot only focus on the obvious forms of discrimination and violence because all forms of violence and discrimination against women and girls are interwoven.

“When I traveled away from home, my son and I would have a father-son moment,” Bunch said. “After I kissed everyone good-bye, I would turn to my son and say, ‘You’re the man of the house, take care of it.’”

Bunch may have taught his son about leadership, responsibility, and being a protector but he had done so at the expense of the women and girls in his family.

“The message that my son was getting was: you got it because she doesn’t,” he said. “You’re the man now because she needs one.”

According to a study published in a World Health Organization, “Men and boys who adhere to more rigid views about masculinity (such as believing that men need sex more than women do, that men should dominate women and that women are “responsible” for domestic tasks) are more likely to report having used violence against a partner, to have had a sexually transmitted infection, to have been arrested and to use substances.”

 Furthermore, rigid views about masculinity have the effect of creating a distance between the constructs of boy and girl. One of the many goals of A Call to Men is to decrease that distance.

“We teach our boys about dominance and aggression early on, and aggression has its place especially when it comes to the military,” he said. However, we also teach our boys: not to be too nice, not to be too soft and not to cry because those are traits associated with girls.

According to, when boys are told not to cry or feel, there are long-term negative effects on their health and relationships. Although approximately 15 percent of men perpetrate violence against women, the consequences of teaching boys to suppress their emotions—and reinforcing that behavior through societal pressure—manifest into some of the underlying causes of violence and discrimination against women.

A Call to Men uses the term “Man Box,” to reference the collective socialization of men towards viewing women as objects, property of men and of lesser value than men. In the construct of a Man Box, men need to be: powerful and dominating; fearless and in-control; strong and emotionless; and successful.

A guiding principle of A Call to Men is to encourage men to break out of the Man Box by learning not to conform to the pressure to always be fearless and in-control and not to use language that denigrates women and girls. This call to men is an effort to work with men who are willing to challenge the Man Box construct, ultimately resulting in a man who is capable of developing an interest in the experience of women and girls outside of sexual conquest and to model a healthy and respectful manhood—a manhood that is capable of withstanding the expression of a full range of emotion—to other men and boys.

The majority of men are not perpetrators of violence against women but the collective socialization of men illustrated by the Man Box implicates the majority of men as responsible for creating, maintaining and benefiting from a male dominating culture that is required for such violence to exist. Ending violence against women, particularly male-perpetrated violence, will require an understanding and deconstructing of the Man Box. Perhaps, one day, a daughter won’t need to ask her father to place a pair of his boots on her front porch so that she could feel safer from male perpetrated violence and discrimination.